Green space linked to reduced risk of heart disease and stroke

In the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Louisville have shown that people who live in neighborhoods with denser green spaces may be at a lower risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

Greenspace in neighborhood with dad and daughter -By Biserka StojanovicBiserka Stojanovic | Shutterstock

For the study, Bhatnagar and colleagues assessed the impact of green spaces on individual-level biomarkers of blood vessel injury and cardiovascular disease.

Over a five-year period, the risk of cardiac injury and stroke was calculated by measuring the biomarkers in urine and blood samples taken from 408 people of varying age, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

The participants, which were recruited from the outpatient cardiology clinic at the university, were largely at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The density of the green spaces near to where the participants lived were measured using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and levels of air pollution were measured using particulate matter from the EPA and roadway exposure measurements.

As reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study revealed that living in areas with denser green spaces was associated with the following:

  • A lower urinary concentration of epinephrine, which is a biomarker of stress
  • A lower urinary concentration of F2-isoprostane, an indicator of less oxidative stress
  • An increased capacity to repair blood vessel damage

The team also found that the epinephrine association was stronger among women, those who did not take beta-blockers and those with no history of heart attack.

The results were independent of factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, smoking status, roadway exposure, statin use and deprivation level.

Indeed, increasing the amount of vegetation in a neighborhood may be an unrecognized environmental influence on cardiovascular health and a potentially significant public health intervention.”

Aruni Bhatnagar, Lead Author

Sally Robertson

Written by

Sally Robertson

Sally graduated from Greenwich University with a first-class honours degree in Biomedical Science. After five years working in the scientific publishing sector, Sally developed an interest in medical journalism and copywriting and went on to pursue this on a freelance basis. In her spare time Sally enjoys cross-country biking and walking, tennis and crosswords.

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